Why is making software smarter “dumbing it down”?

The present and future of post production business and technology by Philip Hodgetts

Shortly after I first arrived in the USA, I was teaching some Final Cut Pro classes for Intelligent Media. It was just before Final Cut Pro 2 was released, which I had been beta testing for some months, but 1.2.5 was the release version we were teaching. At that time it was challenging for new users to get settings right, particularly getting a good match between Capture and Sequence settings, so the first half day was dedicated to teaching settings and making sure they were right. It was personally frustrating because I knew that the about-to-be-releaseed version was much smarter about settings.

As it turns out, Final Cut Pro 2 was released early the next morning, so the first thing I had to do in that second day of class was tell my students that what we had learned the day before was no longer relevant for version 2 because the software had become smarter, and that made it easier for people to use Final Cut Pro and no doubt contributed to its success.

There is an inevitable trend with technology (at least) that starts with something being difficult: it requires a specialist operator with scarce craft skills. Think about how challenging a Model T Ford would have been compared to a modern motor vehicle. To drive a car – even as late as when I was growing up in the 50's – you really needed to have some pretty good mechanic skills as well. Cars still had crank slots in my youth in Australia! A driver really should have known something about timing, cleaning spark plugs, tightening (or replacing) fan belts and more. Not to forget the joy of manual chokes and manual gearboxes. read more...

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